Consensus, division and voting in early Stuart towns
in Revolutionising politics
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This chapter examines the practices and language of voting and electoral choice in England’s towns in the early seventeenth century. Taking as its starting point Mark Kishlansky’s depiction of consensual politics in Parliamentary Selection, the chapter interrogates that model by looking closely at decision making and voting in municipal government. The routines for electing mayors and other officers and for voting on civic business illustrate the multiple forces at play in voting. Structures and language of consensus, hierarchy and deference wrestled with majority decisions, individual choice and claims of right to participate. Procedures in borough governance such as the cursus honorum, strict seniority and narrowed participation instilled hierarchical order and promoted unanimity. Yet other mechanisms, including ballot boxes, vote tallies and majority decision-making, reinforced with ideas about free voices and the legitimacy of participation, also characterised urban government. Kishlansky’s emphasis on deferential practices that fostered unanimous decisions and orderly choice in elections requires amendment in the urban context, where the habit of regular voting, and the issues of division and counting that went with it, also informed political practice. An interplay between varied impulses, always in tension, shaped urban political culture in early Stuart England.

Revolutionising politics

Culture and conflict in England, 1620–60


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